Big Bill Broonzy Vol 11 1940-1942
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Big Bill Broonzy
Complete Recorded Works (c. November 1927 – 15th September 1951)
Vol. 11: 17th December 1940 to 6th March 1942
Featuring the recordings of:
Big Bill Broonzy, vocal, guitar; Memphis Slim, piano; Ransom Knowling, stand-up bass. Big Bill Broonzy, vocal, guitar; Horace Malcolm, piano (except on 7); Washboard Sam, washboard; Jazz Gillum, harmonica added on 7; unknown, imitation bass added on 7. Big Bill Broonzy, vocal, guitar; Memphis Slim, piano / speech on 11; probably Washboard Sam, washboard. Big Bill Broonzy, vocal, guitar; Blind John Davis, piano; Washboard Sam, washboard /speech on 17. Big Bill And His Chicago Five: Big Bill Broonzy, vocal, guitar; accompanied by Punch Miller, trumpet; Buster Bennett, alto sax; Memphis Slim, piano; Judge Riley, drums.
Genres: Blues, City Blues, Urban Blues, Arkansas Blues, Chicago Blues, Blues Guitar, Blues Piano, Blues Harmonica, Rhythm & Blues, Hokum
Abridged from this album;s original booklet notes. The later thirties saw the first sign of economic recovery in America but Europe was in flames and it would only be a matter of time before the USA was drawn into the conflict. It was a time of turmoil but very little of it was reflected in the work of Big Bill Broonzy. He continued to produce good time music, proto R & B, personal blues and hokum with the occasional piece of nostalgia thrown in. After the death of his long-time associate Josh Altheimer, Bill utilized the piano playing talents of Horace Malcolm and the young Memphis Slim, usually filling out the sound with a string bass or his half-brothers washboard. Malcolm was on the date which produced the untypical Green Grass Blues a piece of nonsense about the rural bliss typified by windmills and wells, owls and roosters and log cabins with dirt chimneys; a never-never land where Bill could “make love on the grass with no bills to pay”. More in line with his usual philosophy is When I Been Drinking, a song much favoured, later, by Sunnyland Slim. It underlines Bill’s comment on the last page of his biography that “some blues singers can and do sing and don’t drink, but not Big Bill”. The last track cut on this session was a one-off on which Bill sang with the support of Jazz Gillum’s harmonica to produce the rural sounding and justly famous Key To The Highway, a song that was to be sung by just about everybody in the 1960’s. His next session produced two of his most successful songs in Double Trouble and All By Myself, the latter to become a standard in the repertoire of Memphis Slim who was responsible for the vigorous piano that appears on this jaunty up-tempo boast. Another Big Bill Broonzy standard, I Feel So Good was cut at the session of 2nd December 1941. At the same time Bill, who had been drafted in 1918, also sang about getting a letter from “a dear old uncle” on In The Army Now. Ironically this session took place just days before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Two of the recordings made at this session would be featured on V-Discs supplied to the armed forces as a morale booster during the conflict that was about to begin. Big Bill’s last pre-war session was a date with his Chicago Five, a renamed Memphis Five involving the trumpet of Kid Punch Miller and the sometimes filthy alto sax of Buster Bennett. Bill seemed preoccupied by the subject of betrayal at this gig when he sang Casey Bill Weldon‘s Outskirts Of Town (he had played guitar on Casey Bill‘s 1936 recording) and I’m Woke Up Now where he says of his some-time friends “they will hide their hands, boys, – after they throw a brick”. Big Bill Broonzy would resume his career on record as soon as the war ended – at the same time starting a second career that would extend his popularity to make him one of the best-loved blues singers of all time.Keith Briggs Copyright 1993: Document Records.